Very early this year i have chosen Forever Still for my Newcomer of the year. Since then many awesome things happened to the band. Reason enough to talk to singer Maja Shining to have the latest updates.
first of all congratulations for the recent signing to Nuclear Blast and thank you for your time and the opportunity to have my very first interview!
Thank you so much and thanks for having me!
2016 has been a quite busy and news packed year for Forever Still. You show a steady appearance into social media so your fans are good informed about the current activities of the band. Therefore please allow a quick view into the past to bring it down to a round figure: For you are a multitalented artist who yet is best known as the outstanding voice of Forever Still, what is your musical background? Did you ever take courses?
Definitely a lot has happened this year! Most of my life I’ve just loved singing and that passion has led to practicing every day. I’ve always had a desire to learn new things and get really good at what I did and singing didn’t feel like a chore. It wasn’t until recent years, I began taking singing lessons to develop my technique and to be sure I didn’t have any bad habits manifesting themselves.
You started to sing in a choir when you were eleven years old and thereafter played musical theater. Have there been any other activities before Forever Still? Do you remember when you get attracted by harder music for the first time and the reasons to choose this way to express yourself?
I did, and even before that I remember singing in school plays for christmas and stuff. I have been in hobby bands before, but it wasn’t until we started Forever Still that I found my passion project. I started listening to harder music around age 13 and the first band experiences I had was in school playing rock music as well – we performed the Flyleaf demo song of “Breathe Today” at a school talent show, when I was 15 and it was a lot of fun! The style we play in Forever Still just came naturally, it’s what we love doing.
How did you met Mikkel Haastrup and could you tell something about the start of Forever Still?
The band formed, when Mikkel and I met at a concert and shortly after began talking about making music together. Mikkel sent over some instrumental ideas and I was inspired to write melodies over it, from the first time I heard it. We met up and started working on some songs and together we released our first EP “Breaking Free” in 2013.
Besides singing you are playing piano, the harp and sometimes an electric violin, are there more instruments i missed?
We posted a picture of a harp and some people just assumed, I played it, but all harp-credits go to Mikkel. I’m impressed you know that, I don’t even know where you picked that up, and I do own an electric violin, but the truth is, I’m miles away from being good enough to add it to any of our recordings. I play piano on a few acoustic tracks on the Tied Down album as well as one on the Breaking Free EP and I originally started playing in my late teens to have something to back up my vocals. I love the instrument and still aspire to become really good, when I get more time on my hands – clearly that time is not right now!
I would really appreciate to hear the violin in one or even more future metal tracks of Forever Still. You are very open in listening to different styles in music. Could you imagine to push the genre borders with your own music or do you fear to lose some of your fans if you would become more experimental?
We love experimenting and the music we make comes from a need to express emotions and feelings that would otherwise boil over. We never consider, if others will like or dislike something we do. We make the music we need to make and I think our fans can feel that it come from a real place and that’s what makes them relate to it.
Since the earliest releases there have been some changes around your creative nucleus which means Mikkel Haastrup and yourself. This February you announced Partsch (guitar) and Dennis Stockmarr (drums) joining the Forever Still family. Are they steady members now and did the creative process change since then?
Yes, Forever Still is basically Mikkel and I in the studio and on stage we’ve had different live members with us. For the next tour we’re doing, Partsch will join us once again on guitar and we will have a new, awesome drummer with us.
There are not many metal- or rockbands from Denmark with international attention which you have got immediately. I remember Mercyful Fate / King Diamond, Pretty Maids and Disneyland After Dark who got big mainly in the 80ies and some of them are still active ever since. „In Flames“, „Abattoir“ and „Disaster Area“ were or are well known into their related fan bases.
So did you emerge from an vivid local scene and just knew the secrets of social media and used them well or what makes the difference?
Denmark is a very small country and the metal/rock scene isn’t very big, so our focus has always been to get out and play in other countries as well. The internet has made it possible for us to talk to our fans all over the world and find out, where they wanted us to play, so that has been a huge help. Other than that it comes down to good music, hard work and persistence.
You declared yourself to be a do-it-yourself band. Not only that you produced a single first and then three EPs, which became your longplaying debut „Tied Down“, you also managed everything, created several videos and besides this you are still omnipresent in social media. Everything you do is time-consuming but also on a very high level. The videos can compete with many official creations and your music production was state of the art. And i have to admit, partly you did not only catch me with the music but also with all those activities aside. That fans can select a single is not that new, to make the choice about a video neither, but to influence the script of the next video is another thing. I hope, there will be still similar activities, even when things are getting bigger? Do you expect additional time with the recent contract, will you turn over some of the parts mentioned to the label and how will you use that free space?
The cool thing about Nuclear Blast is that they signed us because they love what we do and not because they wanted to change us into something else, so we continue to make all of our music, recordings, artwork and videos ourselves. What the signing does is allow us to spend more time on the creative things, while we get help with the administrative work that includes promoting the band from the label. We’re still going to stay in touch with our fan base online, like we always have, and collaborate with them on creative projects – we love to have that close connection with everyone.
You once mentioned you get most of your energy from walks. Do you hike as well? If so, do you have any favorite spots around the world you visited or you want to in your life?
There’s absolutely nowhere to hike (in mountains) in Denmark, since the country is flat as a pancake! Taking long walks in the city clears my mind and there are lots of parks and green areas to enjoy. I’m often joined by Mikkel, where we talk about our plans for the band while getting some fresh air and new impressions. When we were in Los Angeles, we hiked Runyon Canyon and the view over the city from the top was absolutely breathtaking. Last year I hiked Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire with my sister in 35*C (95*F) – that was a rough one and we took a ski-lift going down.
With the signing to Nuclear Blast and their long time experience into Metal you not only got a record label, but presumably a partner with the best ability to push on things for you. This is maybe not only the best deal you could get but all this happens at the very best moment in your career as well, isn´t it?
We have gotten offers before, but it wasn’t until we met Nuclear Blast, we even considered signing with one. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m very grateful to have the chance to work with the awesome people there. They really love what we do and have been the most supportive and kind people, I have met in a long time. This seems to be the beginning of something great!
There will be a new release of Tied Down this October. The disc contains three new accoustic versions (Scars, Save Me and Miss Madness) and as far as i understood there will be a special digipack including a dvd with all of your videos? Will the disc have a new master or can you use the material you allready got?
Yeah, we made 3 pretty unique acoustic versions of Scars, Save Me and Miss Madness, those are definitely something to look forward to and you might be in for a surprise! The DVD contains all the music- and lyric videos we have done for Tied Down. Several fans have previously requested that we release our music videos, so I’m really happy we get to do that, so that the fans have a chance to own them and watch them in the best possible quality. Nuclear Blast liked the work Mikkel had done on the original master, and they wanted to keep it like it was to preserve the full emotional impact and have the listener experience it the way, it was meant to be. There’ll also be a lyric booklet included in the new version of Tied Down.
Tied Down often is praised not only for the music but also for the strong words. Actually it is a concept album about innermost feelings an how to deal with them. At your website you describe it as „a record [that] grapples with a glut of personal issues stemming from depression, anxiety, and worthlessness, through to perseverance and recovery.“ Without any question this is a predestined subject for aggressive sounds and to croon as well. But i never saw a depressive person who loves the public as much, as you seem to. So everything came out for good for you? The intensity of your work seems to stand for some experience with those kind of feelings. So is this album all autobiographical or more an abstraction?
Every lyric comes from personal emotion and experience, just like the music does. A lot of the lyrics have definitely been a way to process things that has happened in the past and others are focused on more recent experiences. There’ll always be that person you know in public and that person you know on a personal level. I show one part of myself online and another part of myself in my lyrics and performances. It’s all me, there are just different things for different times and I don’t feel like bitching about my life on social media – I have the music as an outlet for that.
Now let us talk about the future. You earlier mentioned, there already are a few early versions of new songs. Will the next album be a theme-album as well?
Yes, we’ve already started working on some new songs and they have a very distinct theme to them. I’m not ready to reveal what it is yet, but the songs we have written so far are definitely some of the best we have ever written, in my opinion.
I heard some whispering about touring plans, probably by the end of this year. Can you allready tell something about the countries that will be included?
Actually it has just gone public that we will join Lacuna Coil on their Delirium World Tour all across Europe this fall. We can’t wait to get to visit so many new places and see all the fans we’ve wanted to meet for a long time! It will include around 13 countries and you can check out the dates on our homepage: www.foreverstill.dk
Did you ever jam? Today music is well structured and many people expect the same versions as heard on the album when it comes to the live experience. In earlier days it was quite usual to jam on the stage. Could you imagine to pass over the control to your emotions and create something new? There would be also the possibility to invite special guests and create different things and learn from each other.
When we play live, we always want to make the experience something unique and the versions of the songs you hear on the album, are not necessarily the same versions of the songs, you will hear live. We like to change it up, both to make it exciting for us as musicians, but especially for the audience, who will never know quite what to expect.
At last let us have a twist: Is there any question you ever wanted to be asked but noone yet dared to?
I think you’ve got it all covered!
Again thank you so much for your patience. I wish you and the whole band great things to come with your new label and awesome moments on the coming tour! I am really looking forward to see you live on stage.
Absolute pleasure, and hopefully we’ll see you at White Trash Ballroom in Berlin!
Thanks a lot to Anne Swallow from Nuclear Blast!